Three Fruita stars pick their colleges
It was an easy decision for James Lewis.
The Fruita Monument High School senior had always loved track and field and he’s always had an interest in engineering.
Wednesday, Lewis paired the two when he signed a national letter of intent with Colorado School of Mines.
Fruita track teammate Jaden Koos signed with Colorado Mesa University and Fruita basketball player Alex Padgett signed with Otero Junior College.
Lewis competed in the City of Grand Junction Lincoln Park Open meets as a youngster. He participated in the Hershey’s Track meets and is currently the top long jumper in Class 5A (22 feet, 9 inches). It’s the second best in the state in all classifications.
“I’ve always been a long jumper,” Lewis said. “That’s what I’m going to Colorado School of Mines to do. The past couple years, I’ve been turned on to sprints. I notice I have a little speed on me. I’m considering my options there, too.”
Lewis is leaning toward mechanical engineering.
“Hanging out with my uncles from early age and talking to them, I loved (engineering),” Lewis said. “My uncle does a lot of electrical. He was telling me about the machines he works on.
“That’s one reason, I was so attracted to Mines.”
Koos wanted to stay close to home but also wanted to be a part of a relatively new program, signing with the Mavericks.
“It should be nice to stay local,” said Koos, who was born and raised in the Grand Valley. “I really like this town. The college is really good, the programs are really good. The track team is just starting out, but it will be nice to watch it grow.”
Koos started participating in track in seventh grade and has always participated in discus and shot put, but is looking forward to trying the hammer throw in college.
“I’m really interested in the hammer throw,” Koos said. “That would really benefit my build. I’m kind of small for shot put. I can get away with my size in the discus and hammer throw.”
Koos is 13th in Class 5A in the discus (150 feet, 3 inches) and 25th in the shot put (45-6).
“I’ve improved a lot this year and have been really consistent with my marks,” Koos said. “That’s key at state. If I can stay consistent, I should be able to place high.”
Padgett considered Colorado Mesa and the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs, but chose to go to a junior college first.
“Otero was one of the first people to talk to me,” Padgett said. “The coach (Houston Reed) came to my home and talked to me. I went down there for a visit and he took care of me and my dad. I think he’ll make me a better basketball player.”
Padgett is looking forward to an opportunity to play as a freshman, but more important is an opportunity to get better.
“Most freshmen want to get bigger and stronger,” he said. “I wanted to go somewhere I would get better. Coach said the gym’s open from 6 in the morning to 6 at night. It was a place I felt like I could hone in on my skills and get better.”
He is looking forward to focusing and playing one position — shooting guard — and he’s hoping to keep his dreams of playing Division I basketball alive by going to a junior college.
“I’ve always wanted to play Division I,” Padgett said. “I feel like if I didn’t go this route, I’d look back and say what if. I didn’t want that. If I don’t like it down there, I may try to come back and play (at Mesa).”
Padgett was second on the team, averaging 17.7 points per game. He led the team with 43 3-pointers.
“As I’ve learned more from coaches, not just basketball, but they taught me a lot about being a man, becoming a good person,” Padgett said. “I think it’s really shaped me and helped me grow. I will really miss Coach (Dave) Fox, Coach (Butch) Thorpe and Coach (Tom) Goff.”